Beatrice Crawley is a tall luscious Olivia...at 5'10" she's a head taller than dear old dad (who sounds like he must be vertically challenged). She's as close to British royalty as The Venerable Neels allows her heroines....the great granddaughter of an earl (do you suppose he's a "belted earl"?).
Her first thought on seeing Gijs at a Christmas party is "He doesn't like me." Beatrice then proceeds to be snappy and rude...lighten up, girlfriend! She knows she needs to apologize so she heads over towards Gijs as he is talking to the rector - who leaves her with Gijs after this parting shot: "I leave you in good hands; Beatrice is a sweet girl." Gijs has a bit of a sly sense of humor: I'm delighted...and surprised to hear that. So much for apologizing. Beatrice is now bitter and rude. Again, what's not to like?
Little brother George comes home for Christmas break - with his dirty laundry, unwrapped presents, and a hollow leg. Beatrice puts his clothes in the washer, wraps his presents and feeds him fruitcake...all of which I, as a mother of 5 boys, disapprove of. It's not until she goes over to the church and rewires the fairy lights that I start warming up to her.
After Christmas, Beatrice heads back to St. Justin's, to take up the reins of 'administrator' of the building that houses the Path Lab. She has her own little flatlet on the top floor, with her office down on the ground floor. Enter social climbing boyfriend Tom the Toad. Self-important, conceited, condescending, ambitious, smug...Beatrice realizes that she has let herself drift into something more than a casual relationship with this toad. Tom the Toad takes Beatrice out for a bite to eat after she works a long hard day. His idea of a 'bite', is to have one small plate of sandwiches - and then to devour all of them but one. This does not endear him to our statuesque heroine...neither does his assumption that she will marry him. Her, "...I don't want to marry you." is ignored...he proceeds to inform her that she'll be a splendid wife...with all the 'right connections'...toad.
Her: I don't want to see you again.
Him: Oh, you are a silly girl. I'll change your mind. (then leaves without opening any doors for her)
Her: "Yes, I am a silly girl. For not having seen sooner that you are nothing but a coward with a heart full of fear." (Alright, you caught me...that last line was from The Princess Bride...but it goes so well here...)
Tears of anger and frustration dribble down her cheeks as she walks into....Gijs? Yup. He's in London to read a paper on Haematology...at her very own Path Lab building...his large hanky is handy for mopping up - he follows her up to her flatlet and goes avuncular on her, so she opens up like a guest on Oprah about the cause of her tears. My family didn't like him much, when he found out mum was an earl's granddaughter his social climbing toadiness jumped right up. Then he took me out tonight and ate all the sandwiches. "I knew that I didn't love him then - well, any girl would, wouldn't she? At this point, I totally forgive her for her initial rudeness to Gijs. Gijs invites her out for a belated supper -so off they go, in his great socking Bentley. Having a full tummy helps restore Beatrice's spirits tremendously (it has much the same effect on Betty Keira) - she fills Gijs in on the details of her working life. He takes her back, and like some sort of Door Opening Super Hero proceeds to open the car door, the path lab door AND her flatlet door.
Next day dawns on some kind of medical conference occurring in her building. Beatrice is in charge of making sure it all goes smoothly - ticking names off a list, helping elderly men out of their overcoats, making sure refreshments and lunch are ready...she peeps in during Professor van der Eekerk (yes, that's Gijs's name) - he's going on about haemolytic anaemia, jaundice Rh factor, polycythaemia, etc...then it's tea time again. The cook is amazed at their capacity to talk about blood and eat at the same time... "like a swarm of locusts...and 'ow they can eat and drink and talk about blood beats me though I must say 'e 'oo did the talking is something like. Wouldn't mind 'aving a lecture from 'im." (which sounds perilously close to "he can eat crackers in my bed, anytime") As Beatrice is finishing tidying up, in comes Tom the Toad, trying to wheedle and charm...but Beatrice is uncharmable and unwheedlable. Toadish Tom is getting a little too pushy, Gijs comes riding in on his white charger and squashes the toad, offers Beatrice a quick meal at Alfred's Place (think greasy spoon), and off they go. The waitress is awestruck at the thought of seeing an actual, real, live professor...
Gijs: 'I feel that I should have horns or a beard and a basilisk stare at the very least.'
Beatrice: you do look like one...only you're a bit too young...
Gijs: I'll start the beard first thing in the morning
Beatrice: No! I mean professors are elderly, grey-haired, forgetful and unworldly...
Gijs: I have grey hairs, but I rather like the world. I can be forgetful and in a few years I'll be elderly.
At which point it is time to exchange vital statistics. Gijs is 37, Beatrice is 28. Nice point spread there.
And now, in the interest of world peace, global standardization, and a 'step forward in the unification of Europe', Beatrice gets a foreign exchange job dropped in her lap. Or maybe on her head. She is to go to Leiden for at least a month and do the same job there...and a Dutch woman will come over and do hers. Mum thinks it's a great opportunity...to maybe meet that charming man from the Christmas party.
Meanwhile, Toady Tom is lurking in the shadows, trying to make a play...but Beatrice has been successful at avoiding him, that is, until New Years Eve. Toady Tom takes a sharp left turn into Stalker Valley - he accosts her in the parking lot, as she is going out to a party..."Still playing hard to get? I'm not taking no for an answer." Wow. Does anyone else think that sounds a wee bit threatening? Gijs does not miraculously pop out of the pavement to rescue her...but she does run into him at the New Years Eve party. Her mum is there too, and wouldn't you know it, she's already on a first name basis. 'Gijs, indeed.' thinks Beatrice. Gjis Indeed is a very good dancer...who just so happens to have a motherless seven year old daughter. You heard right, Gijs is a daddy.
Beatrice: "You should marry again..."
Gijs: Great minds think alike...
Mrs. Crawley hides her disappointment when Beatrice informs her that Gijs is planning to marry...was her spidey sense wrong? Hmm. We'll just have to wait and see.
Gijs gives Beatrice some idea of what to expect during her foreign exchange...and then offers to send her a couple of books on Holland. Study up, girlfriend. A hospital porter delivers the books a couple of days later. One was a modern history of the Netherlands...doesn't sound too bad...the second dealt with constitution, laws and politics. Really? Sounds like slow going to me.
Foreign Exchange Program. Turns out Beatrice is not the only hospital employee headed for Holland. Sister Watts has also been tagged as an Ambassador to the Netherlands. In Holland, Hetty Zilstra is assigned to show Beatrice around - she has nothing but praise for "our Gijs" (I'm imagining a deep sigh before and after "our Gijs"). Beatrice gets settled in to the Dutch hospital just fine (remember, everyone except cleaning ladies and cooks speak English in Holland)
Gijs returns from a trip unexpectedly, and Beatrice is unexpectedly delighted. Our Gijs asks Beatrice to spend her day off with him...
Beatrice: "...I was going to go shopping..."
Our Gijs: "Would you like to spend the day with me, Beatrice?"
Beatrice: "Yes, please."
Our Gijs: *kiss*
Gijs has a lovely home, and daughter Alicia is as cute as a button with her Alice band. Our Gijs takes advantage of the situation and asks Beatrice if she'd like to spend her next day off with them. Of course she can't say no when there's a seven year old in the room - but she is a bit vague. Beatrice doesn't get a tour of the house yet, but she is treated to a tour of the grounds, complete with stables, in which we find one standard issue pony, ditto one donkey (rescued from abusive 'travelers') ditto one horse. Alicia doesn't go to sleep that evening until indulging in a spot of emotional blackmail - a promise is extracted from Beatrice to visit the following week. Abstract reasons for marriage are discussed...the sordid tale of Our Gijs' first marriage is recounted (Zalia was a party girl, left before Alicia was one to live in Italy with her American boyfriend, then conveniently died in a car accident). A kiss on the cheek goodbye. A kiss on the cheek hello...will you marry me? Huh? What'd I miss? Our Gijs promises to share his sandwiches with her, unlike Tom the Stalker Toad. "It's all so sudden." (cringe. Really, Betty?) Think about it, says he... Our girl is then 'treated' to a phone call from Stalker Toad Tom..."Missed me? I bet you're dying to see me...I've forgotten your little outbursts..." *SLAM* Down goes the phone, *RING* There goes the doorbell - it's Gijs and he can see something is wrong...Beatrice tells him all about the harassing phone call and Our Gijs comes up with a perfect ten-step plan.
Step 1: Have adorable seven year old gush about the dress she'd like to wear to the wedding.
Step 2: Don't refer to proposal...let her stew.
Step 3: Loads of casual kisses on the cheek.
Step 4: Give her a poesy ring with romantic inscription. "You and no other."
Step 5: Throw adorable seven year old at her as a bit of blackmail.
Step 6: Back on the burner to stew again.
Step 7: Let her go back to England with nary a good-bye.
Step 8: Send her masses of roses.
Step 9: Let her see Stalker Boy again. He can be depended on to harass.
Step 10: Show up unannounced and let her throw herself at you.
Result: One Dawning Realization. Easy peasy. Bring on the Marriage of Convenience. Shall we marry right away? "We are both mature people, are we not?" Oops. Our Gijs is just about to be sent back to Step 1 - Beatrice is bubbling with rage at being called "mature". Editor: I'm not quite sure why that should rankle so much, but I admit that even at age 50 I'm not overly fond of being called mature. Gijs gives a remarkably nice apology and agrees to wait a couple of weeks while Beatrice gets a wedding organized. Yup. Our girl gets to have a wedding dress and veil. Per his request. Twenty guests each, extras can come to a reception at Casa de Crawley. Mrs. Crawley is a little puzzled by Gijs saying that he had thought about taking Alicia back to Holland with them after the wedding (what about implied conjugal relations, she wonders...) Standard RDD issue sapphire engagement ring is brandished..."It's beautiful, but may I still wear the poesy ring?"
It's time to get down to brass tacks and get that wedding dress sorted out. Beatrice and Mum go to Bath and get some ivory satin, then bring it back to the village to have Miss Fish, the local seamstress whip it up with her magic fingers. Editors Note: I like the fact that whenever wedding dresses are called for in Neeldom, they are made up in a fairly timely manner. None of this months and months for alterations silliness.
Weeks have turned into days, and now it's the day before the wedding. Time to meet the in-laws...and to get an eyeful of Gijs in a dinner jacket. "Even if she hadn't fallen in love with him already...she would have done so now. Dinner-jackets were made for men such as he."
The wedding was lovely, then it's off to Holland, the village people (altogether now, YMCA, it's fun to stay...never mind) gather to welcome the new couple, Gijs carries Beatrice over the threshold...No,no, you weren't too heavy...life seems good, all Beatrice has to do is...*RING*...oh, hello Mies....(50% of all Dutch villainesses are named Mies...kidding). Mies is invited to dinner. Gijs even goes so far as to request some of her favorite dishes be served for dinner and offers the fact that Mies is small and dainty and can eat anything she wants without gaining weight (insert sound of grinding teeth here). Mies turns out to be not quite what she expected. For one thing, she has thick ankles - and she's fairly non-catty. She does offer to help Beatrice with any party planning...which offer Beatrice plans to accept just as soon as a certain netherworld region freezes over. The next day Beatrice takes the car out for a drive in the country. All is well and good until the freezing rain starts...and the road ices up. She has to stop because of an accident blocking the road - and it's quite a while until the police come and call Gijs for her. He looks furious when he gets there. Well, of course he would - he's been worried to death about her - but she doesn't know that - only that he's mad at her. They have a very quiet ride back home - but that all changes when they walk in the door. Besides the faithful household help and Alicia, Mies is there and SURPRISE!!! Guess who I brought home, honey? It Toady Tom! I sure didn't see that coming. Instead of Mies being a villainess, she turns out to be practically a benefactress to Beatrice, by taking Tom totally off the market. Beatrice is not quite happy about the situation - she knows that Tom is a toad, but Mies is one step ahead of her. She also know that Tom is a toad (her word is actually philanderer!), but Mies plans to wear the pants in the family and wield the purse strings. She won't let him wander far. Sounds a bit dire for Tom, but hey, he deserves it.
And now for some angst. Gijs calls Beatrice one evening and tells her not to wait up for him. She can hear glasses clinking in the background and a woman's voice - sounds like a party! She does wait up, and then chews him out royally for staying out so late. "You may as well have made a night of it!" She nearly throws a vase at him - but he manages to forestall that. She finds out the next day that he had been busy with a medical emergency - a fight having occurred at a restaurant (thus the clinking glasses). She feels horrible about it, but Gijs won't let her apologize - which I think is a bit stinky of him. Then he goes off to Northern Ireland to put himself in harms way for a bit. She still feels horrible - he's gone for days, then comes back just barely in time for the hospital ball. When he dances the obligatory last waltz with her, she takes the opportunity to tell him that she loves him...he waltzes her out to the conservatory...I love you too, snogging, what do we do now? Let's go home! The end.
Verdict: I wasn't too sure of this one at the start - when Beatrice and Gijs first meet she's snappy and rude. I thought to myself, "Oh brother! Not another one of those." And it wasn't. Thankfully Beatrice warms up to Gijs pretty quickly - and manages to be fairly honest with him (except for that little thing about being in love...). Gijs was fun for me - he was always teasing her when she talked about the weather, and I do love an ongoing tease - when it's not mean-spirited - which it wasn't. I loved how he was a bit of a matchmaker for Mies and Tom. I didn't love how stand-offish he got all of a sudden when Beatrice reamed him out for staying out late, and then went out of his way to not let her apologize. My other complaint is that not very many of the supporting characters are really fleshed out. Because of that I think I'll give this one a boeuf en croute.
Fashion: Ivory wedding dress, 'safe' dress to meet the in-laws in, Tattersall check suit, hyacinth blue jersey dress worn with low heeled leather lace-ups, silk crêpe in old rose, long velvet coat, dark grey dress with white collar and cuffs, thick tweed skirt, angora sweater.
Food: Lobster mousse twice! pheasant, bombe glacé, castle puddings, lamb cutlets, turkey, Christmas pudding, fruitcake, hospital stodge, chocolate mousse, beef casserole with dumplings, boiled celery in a béchamel sauce (ew).